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Lithium Ion Battery Production Has Unhealthy Effects, EPA Study Shows

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Lithium-Ion Battery Pack Being Assembled and Tested
Lithium-Ion Battery Pack Being Assembled and Tested

According to a recent report by the US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], in-use carbon dioxide emissions don’t tell the whole story of lithium-ion battery packs.

Lithium-ion battery packs are the current best-technology for just about all electric vehicles and even some hybrid electric vehicles.

In order to increase the range of an electric vehicle, a reliable and high-density battery is absolutely critical. Lithium-ion battery packs are solid technology, and allow vehicles like the Tesla Model S to achieve a range of up to 300 miles, something that would have been impossible with older-technology nickel-metal hydride [NiMH].

Utilizing lithium-ion battery packs, electric vehicles ostensibly have much-reduced emissions. They emit zero carbon dioxide themselves, but there may be carbon dioxide emissions from whatever power source they are recharging from. Depending on where you recharge and electric vehicle, it has far fewer carbon dioxide emissions than conventional vehicles.

“While Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles are definitely a step in the right direction from traditional gasoline-fueled vehicles and nickel metal-hydride automotive batteries, some of the materials and methods used to manufacture them could be improved,” said Jay Smith, an Abt senior analyst and co-lead of the life-cycle assessment.

Manufacturing methods for nickel and cobalt cathodes as, well as solvent-based electrode processing, have been shown to have adverse effects on the environment and human health. Not only this, but the production of lithium-ion battery packs has its own carbon footprint. No one seems to doubt that electric vehicles will be powered by lithium-ion, or whatever next-generation battery technology comes along, but manufacturers are going to have to take steps to reduce their own environmental impact if we’re going to see a truly clean vehicle.

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